April 20, 2021

Washington Capitals Preseason Game 6: Grabovski shines in preseason action, Caps win 4-1

Preseason performance doesn’t mean a whole lot for a guy who already knows he’s on the team, but Mikhail Grabovski has already shown some good things in the two games he’s played as a Washington Capital.

Both games were multi-point games — two assists against the Boston Bruins, and three at home at Verizon Center against the Nashville Predators. That’s five assists in six periods. Not bad at all. Granted, he’s been playing against many non-roster players, but you can’t overlook Grabovski’s performance because of that.

If not for Grabovski, Eric Fehr wouldn’t have had quite the night he did, scoring two goals on Predators goalie Carter Hutton, both assisted by Grabovski.

Grabovski also assisted on Alex Ovechkin’s tally on the power play. Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber weren’t in the line up for Nashville tonight, but coach Adam Oates was pleased with Grabovski’s play overall, even against weaker competition.

“He’s a good hockey player. He fits into our puzzle,” he told reporters after the game, full of praise for the center. “He skates very well, he’s a tough player.”

Martin Erat quite literally faced off against his former team, the Predators, this evening. Tonight marked his first game trying out the center position at the coaxing of Oates, who had previously conducted the experiment with Eric Fehr at center.

Fehr, who played on the wing tonight,  said he doesn’t think Oates is finished tinkering with positional assignments for either of them. There’s still plenty of time to play around with things before the season starts for real, though.

It would be easy to see Fehr staying on the wing: his speed lends him to that position, but Oates may be planning to alternate playing him there and at center on an as-needed basis throughout the season.

The Capitals are now 3-2 in the preseason after defeating the Predators 4-1 on home ice. They’ll take on the Philadelphia Flyers at Verizon Center on Friday night, before heading off to Chicago to play their final preseason game against the Blackhawks, just two days before they open the season in Chicago on October 1.

Washington Redskins Recap: Skins fall short against Lions 27-20

The Washington Redskins looked better on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. They moved the ball better. They looked better against the run. They had a legitimate chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately, a combination of penalties, missed tackles and missed opportunities and a continued shaky pass defense led to a 27-20 loss to the Lions, dropping the Skins to 0-3 as they prepare this next week for a cross-country road trip against the Oakland Raiders, which could find the team winless heading into their bye week in Week 5.

Two plays were indicative how this game — really, this season — have gone for the Redskins.

First, Robert Griffin III busted containment and took off scampering down the field, outrunning defenders for 20 yards before deciding that discretion was the better part of valor. Instead of sliding, Griffin went head-first and upon impact, the ball squirted loose to be recovered by a Lions defender.

Later, Aldrick Robinson hauled in a 45-plus yard bomb from Griffin and fell into the end zone, only to have the ball come free upon impact. The pass was ruled incomplete, and for all intents, the game was over at that point.

Yes, the Skins kicked a field goal with 2:16 left that put them down by a touchdown and yes, they had one last Hail Mary attempt that could have tied the game.

But it really wasn’t that close.

We saw on Sunday what an average quarterback could do to the Redskins defense — dead last in the league overall and 30th in the league against both the pass and run.

Matthew Stafford is an average quarterback with a couple of exceptional wideouts. We saw time and again those receivers breaking free against the porous Skins secondary. On occasion, Stafford would hit them in stride for big gains. Sometimes, he’d make a crummy throw that resulted in a modest gain. Sometimes, he’d overthrow, or underthrow, or simply miss the target, as he did on DeAngelo Hall’s pick-six.

But never did the Redskins secondary force or pressure Stafford into doing what he didn’t want to do.

There was some pressure from the front seven on occasion that made Stafford rush a throw here or there. But for the most part, receivers ran open all day long and Stafford either hooked up with them or not.

On offense, Griffin had a better day. There were occasions where the Skins offense looked — dare I say — good. But Griffin had that fumble on an untouched downing of the ball. He threw one of the worst interceptions you’re ever likely to see, flinging the ball in the general direction of a clump of players as he’s being hauled down scrambling. And he’s still just not “there” yet running the ball.

He had a couple of plays where we saw some burst, but he’s also getting chased down by defensive linemen and linebackers all too often.

If this had been the first game of the season, you’d chalk it up to rust and move on. But this can’t be a moral victory even though the Skins had a couple of chances to tie or win this game in the fourth quarter. They needed to win this one. Odds of teams coming from 0-3 to make it to the playoffs are slim, indeed.

They are only two games out of the division after Week 3. Heck, the Giants are 0-3 after embarrassing themselves in Carolina on Sunday. But the Redskins face a cross-country trip to Oakland next week. Sure, the Raiders are no great shakes, but teams historically have trouble flying over three time zones and winning games.

The Skins are staring 0-4 right in the face with the bye week coming up. If someone wanted to make a sacrificial offering going into the bye week, it would be the perfect opportunity. We’re going to find out a lot about this team in the next seven days.

D.C. UNITED GAME 1 RECAP: Dynamo continue home dominance vs. D.C. United

A new Major League Soccer season began Saturday night in Houston, Texas, but for D.C. United, the song remained the same. United fell, 2-0, to the Houston Dynamo before 20,019 at BBVA Compass Stadium, thanks to an own goal scored by United defender James Riley, and a late insurance goal by Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark.

United (0-1, 0 points) has played at Houston nine times and have just one draw and eight losses to show for it. On Saturday night, United survived a dodgy penalty call in the first half, then two Houston shots from point blank range in the half’s final minutes, to emerge scoreless at halftime.

But after carrying a bit more possession and generating a couple chances in the second half, United fell behind when, on a Dynamo corner kick, Clark got goal-side position on Riley and went up to head the ball toward goal from close range. Clark missed, but Riley made contact, sending a hard header past United goalkeeper Bill Hamid to give Houston the 1-0 advantage in the 80th minute.

United never really threatened a comeback from there, but any thought of drawing level late to steal a point vanished nine minutes later. From a throw-in, Houston substitute Warren Creavalle managed to keep the ball in play near the end line to Hamid’s left, then passed to a wide-open Clark in the penalty area. Clark blasted a well-taken shot to the upper corner at Hamid’s far post, giving Houston its final 2-0 margin of victory.

At halftime, it appeared as if United were on their way toward capturing at least a point. Hamid dove right to save a Brad Davis penalty kick after D.C. defender Chris Korb was cautioned for a foul on Clark in the 40th minute. Replays showed the foul actually occurred outside the penalty area, despite head referee Baldomero Toledo’s insistence to the contrary. No matter, however, as Davis’ penalty kick was not well struck and Hamid saved easily. He then doubled his effort by collecting a rebound shot, ending the threat.

Moments later, United nearly took the lead themselves, but Chris Pontius’ free kick banged off the crossbar above Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. United then again avoided going down a goal when, on a corner kick, a shot by Houston defender Bobby Boswell was cleared off the line by Korb at Hamid’s left post. Giles Barnes followed up from only a few feet away, but Hamid saved that effort, allowing for the scoreless deadlock at halftime.

United’s defense couldn’t hold out past 80 minutes, however, and D.C. will entertain Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 9, at RFK Stadium in the home opener looking for its first standings points of the 2013 season.

Coming Monday:  A preview of D.C. United’s 18th season in Major League Soccer. On Tuesday, a more detailed analysis of how United dropped its season opener in Houston.

Notes:  D.C. United defender Daniel Woolard received the only other caution, for a foul in the 15th minute. Woolard was replaced by Riley to start the second half. … There was no debut for new United forward Carlos Ruiz, who started the game on the subs’ bench but was not inserted into the game by D.C. head coach Ben Olsen. … Elsewhere on Opening Day Saturday, Sporting Kansas City rallied from a goal down to beat the Philadelphia Union, 3-1; the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Toronto FC, 1-0; FC Dallas blanked the Colorado Rapids, 1-0; the Montreal Impact scored an upset win at the Seattle Sounders, 1-0; and the Columbus Crew crushed Chivas USA, 3-0. … There are three matches Sunday, including Portland Timbers vs. New York Red Bulls, televised by ESPN2 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The other two matches feature Los Angeles Galaxy-Chicago Fire and San Jose Earthquakes-Real Salt Lake.

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